Seven players to watch at #FIBAU18Europe Division B in Matosinhos
MATOSINHOS (Portugal) - There will be a lot of young basketball talent on display in Matosinhos, as the FIBA U18 European Championship arrives to Portugal for the first time ever.
We have selected eight players who could make their mark in the tournament, leading their teams to a Division B title or to one of the three promotion spots to next year's Division A tournament.
Make sure to also check out the players to watch in the Division A tournament, which will be taking place in Nis, Serbia.
Ruben Prey - Portugal
Birth Date: February 16, 2005 (18 years old)
Height: 2.08m (6ft 10in)
Club: Joventut Badalona (ESP)
Prey's combination of size, ball-handling ability, defensive production around the rim and shooting potential have turned him into one of the best prospects to ever come out of Portugal. The Joventut Badalona's forward already made his mark in last year's FIBA U20 European Championship, where despite playing three years up in age, he led Portugal in scoring, averaging 16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 38.1 percent from three-point range.
Portugal has been a consistent presence in Division B, reaching the podium just once since 2005. If what they need to finally be promoted to the top division is a historically great prospect, then Prey fits that need perfectly.
Robert Hudec - Slovakia
Birth Date: October 30, 2005 (17 years old)
Height: 1.91m (6ft 3in)
Club: Inter Bratislava (SVK)
Hudec has become an important piece for Inter Bratislava in the Slovak Extraliga, where he is playing nearly 20 minutes per contest. The 17-year-old guard, who will be playing in his second straight FIBA U18 European Championship, Division B, makes an impact with his perimeter defense, his playmaking on the move and especially with his shooting, as he connected on 36 percent of his threes in the 2022-23 season.
Slovakia made history by reaching their first, and so far only podium in the 2016 edition of the tournament. Slovakia will need Hudec to provide perimeter scoring if the team is to make a run in this tournament.
Daniil Sypalo - Ukraine
Birth Date: August 16, 2005 (17 years old)
Height: 2.09m (6ft 10in)
Club: BC Dnipro (UKR)
This will be Sypalo's first FIBA competition, but he has gained valuable experience in the Ukrainian Superleague, where his combination of size, mobility, ball-handling ability and rim protection were extremely valuable for BC Dnipro last season.
Ukraine's four of their six appearances in the Division B Championship have resulted with them earning promotion to Division A. With Sypalo's size and skillset, it shouldn't be a surprise if Ukraine reaches the podium and gets a hold of one of the available promotion spots in Matosinhos.
Tudor Somacescu - Romania
Birth Date: June 15, 2005 (18 years old)
Height: 1.87m (6ft 2in)
Club: Team OTE (USA)
Somacescu's basketball journey has taken him from making his professional debut at just 15 years old in the Romanian LNBM, to sharing the floor with some of the most highly-touted prospects in the United States at Sierra Canyon High School and OTE.
Romania went from consistently finishing in the bottom half of division B, to finishing in seventh place in 2022, on the back of one of the best batches of young prospects the country ever produced, including Dragos Lungu, David Lapuste and Somacescu himself, who will likely be the number one option for a Romanian team that will attempt to prove that last year was not a fluke.
Aleksej Kostic - Austria
Birth Date: October 16, 2005 (17 years old)
Height: 1.93m (6ft 4in)
Club: Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions (AUT)
Austria will bring back their second leading scorer from last year's edition of the tournament in Kostic, who is coming off a productive year for the Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions in the Austrian Bundesliga, where he routinely torched opposing teams with his smoot scoring ability and his three-point shooting, as he connected on 47.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Fifteen years have passed since Austria reached the Quarter-Finals of the tournament. If this is going to be the year they make it back, one of the reasons will likely be Kostic once again catching fire and scoring a barrage of three-pointers.
David Mirkovic - Montenegro
Birth Date: January 6, 2006 (17 years old)
Height: 2.05m (6ft 9in)
Club: SC Derby (MNE)
Mirkovic was the top rebounder and the second leading scorer of last year's FIBA U16 European Championships and he already saw minutes for the U20 team earlier this month, playing three years up in age.
Montenegro was one of the three teams that dropped down from Division A at the conclusion of last year's FIBA U18 European Championships. With Mirkovic's perimeter scoring ability, interior finishing and prolific rebounding, it shouldn't be a surprise if Montenegro's stay in Division B lasts for just one year.
Roberts Blums - Latvia
Birth Date: November 2, 2005 (17 years old)
Height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
Club: LDLC ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne (FRA)
Blums spent the 2022-23 season playing for the youth team of ASVEL, one of the top talent factories in France. There, Blums played well within his role as an off-ball scoring guard who was able to get to the rim with his combination of speed and size, and shoot the ball from beyond the arc at a good clip.
It's been just five years since the dynamic backcourt of Arturs Zagars and Arturs Kurucs carried Latvia to the U18 Division A finals. Blums will need to be similarly impactful in this tournament to lead Latvia back to the top division.